CALHAN – Terry Stauffer doesn’t take rides with his grandchildren for granted these days. In late May of 2018, he and his two grandsons were traveling south onHighway 71 toward Limon when a hail storm suddenly hit and things went terribly wrong.
Terry doesn’t remember much about that day but recalls, “I remember I was coming home (to Calhan) because I had just seeded a bunch in grass and I wanted to check on it. That’s about all I remember.”
Terry’s grandsons Grady and Gracen Bechtle remember much more. Ten-year-old Gracen says, “I remember we were just going up a hill and the hail was coming down. I saw a big truck sliding across the road. He was about to hit us, and I shut my eyes.”
Eleven-year-old Grady clearly recalls, “The main thing I remember is when the truck came at us – the very second before it hit us. The window just shattered because of the hail.”
Then, Terry’s small sedan collided head-on with the pickup. While Terry has no recollection of the accident or what happened after, Gracen says “I opened my eyes, and Grandpa was going crazy, and me and Grady were screaming ‘help us, help us, help ourselves and our grandpa’.”
Grady says, “I woke up and the first thing I did was make sure my brother was OK. Then I looked at my grandpa and I shook him a little bit and he took a really deep breath, and that kinda took stress off me. I really worried about him.”
Amazingly, Grady and Gracen only suffered minor injuries in the head-on accident. Grady says that’s because of the actions of his grandpa, who remembers none of it. Grady says, “He took the whole hit, he took everything. Nothing hit us. He definitely did it on purpose because he was trying to get out of the way obviously, but when he couldn’t, he definitely lined it up so he took the whole hit.”
Terry suffered multiple traumatic injuries and fire and rescue crews from Limon responded, taking the first steps to stabilize him.
Terry describes what he later learned about what happened next. “The fire chief kind of demanded that I was flown from the scene. There’s a lot of reasons that I’m here today, and I feel that’s one of them.”
Terry was flown to UCHealth Memorial Central in Colorado Springs, a Level I trauma center where the team quickly diagnosed his injuries, including his most serious.
Dr. David C. Corry, a vascular and trauma surgeon, explains: “His most life-threatening injury was to his thoracic aorta. In a very high-speed deceleration where essentially your body stops but the aorta continues and your heart continues to go forward in that deceleration, you can tear the aorta.”
His aorta wasn’t completely torn, but was badly damaged and if not repaired quickly would be a fatal injury, and at the time, Terry was in no shape to go through open heart surgery.
In our next story, Dr. Corry will explain the latest technology and procedure involved in the major surgery that saved Terry’s life.
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